Fantasy Mailbag: Closers, Jurrjens, Butler, Jackson

Tim Dierkes runs a daily fantasy baseball blog called RotoAuthority. If you enjoy this column, check it out.

Time for another dip into the fantasy mailbag. Feel free to send a question for next week to
(but please nothing specific to your fantasy team).

I have been told by every expert not to overpay for closers. Well, I held firm and now I have a great offense and starting pitching but zero closers. I do have Fukumori and Pena on my bench. Who are two other guys that might be available that could be closing by June? – Brady

I’d be surprised if those experts advised you begin the season with no closers. The more common advice is to avoid taking closers early, say within the first 10 rounds. Seems like you waited until the reserve round to take relievers. Personally I like to get one decent, secure guy of the Matt Capps/Huston Street variety if possible, and then accentuate with riskier relievers.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping an updated closer depth chart at my site. Here are some relievers to target who could be closing by June: Rafael Betancourt, Joaquin Benoit, Carlos Marmol, and David Riske. And Jon Rauch currently has the ninth for the Nationals until Chad Cordero is ready. You just have to be vigilant and just pounce when something changes. As they say, half of all saves can come off the waiver wire in a given year.

I was also asked a question about whether I prefer Rauch or Riske if I had one open spot. I’ll go with Rauch—Chad Cordero carries injury, ineffectiveness, and trade risk, whereas Eric Gagne has a $10 million leash in Milwaukee.

Do you have any thoughts on Jair Jurrjens? He seems to be performing well, and with a spot int he Braves rotation, double digit wins should be easy. – Matt

Jurrjens, 22, skipped Triple-A to make seven starts for the Tigers last year. He experienced shoulder inflammation in late August. His spring this year was nothing special: a 5.03 ERA and 1.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19.2 innings. I have him posting a 4.61 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. There is more to pitching than just numbers, though, and Baseball America gives a positive review of Jurrjens’ arsenal. A low 4.00s ERA seems within reach, but 10 wins might be hard to achieve because of durability issues. You might as well pick him up—Jurrjens at least offers upside, which is not the case with many waiver wire pitchers.

I’m not usually one to be too impressed with a mediocre fantasy pitcher like Jake Westbrook, especially one who is already over 30. But Buster Olney recently wrote, “Some Braves raved about the Indians’ Jake Westbrook, who has become the rare bread-and-butter sinker baller who ascends to something much greater than that, by implementing an improved change-up. For years, Westbrook has been a pitcher who has pitched to contact and gotten a lot of ground balls, and this spring, he is missing bats.

Skeptical, I looked Westbrook’s spring stats up and discovered this:
18 innings, seven hits, five walks, 20 strikeouts and zero earned runs.

Intriguing, no? I’m not currently in a position to drop anyone for Westbrook now, but how seriously should I consider picking him up if the need arises and he continues on a hot streak into April? I would appreciate a second opinion on Westbrook. – John C.

I am equally intrigued. I don’t have much to add here as John C. did most of the research. Westbrook’s upside may be as a $5 mixed league pitcher though; he’ll need to win 15 games and keep his WHIP down. He might be one to play the matchups with.

Do you agree with me that there’s not much difference in value between Conor Jackson and Billy Butler this year? – Michael

That is fair to say, but there are differences. Butler has more upside – he’s more likely to jack 30 home runs this year. Jackson gives you first base eligibility, which is nice. Butler has more job security—the D-backs could have a minor logjam if Chad Tracy comes back healthy. But they are both high average, 20 home run types batting in RBI spots.

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